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Latinas and black women contract AIDS more from sexual networks and less through risky behaviors

LatinaLista — Once upon a time, AIDS/HIV was considered as dangerous, contagious and prevalent as the H1N1 virus.


There used to be massive public service campaign commercials instructing people on how to avoid getting infected with HIV. A month didn’t go by that AIDS/HIV wasn’t mentioned in the news or the subject of an in-depth article — not anymore.

In the United States, public opinion is that AIDS/HIV has been conquered and the areas of the world still affected are far from the United States, on the African continent.

Unfortunately, not true.

AIDS/HIV has gone from being a gay man’s disease contracted through risky sexual behavior to a disease disproportionately affecting minority communities contracted through their sexual network.

Today’s profile of U.S.-based AIDS-afflicted communities is:

…low prevalence in the general population, high prevalence among the disenfranchised and socially marginalized, with a concentration in geographic hotspots.

Among those disenfranchised who are hardest hit are black women and Latinas.

A new study published in February 2010, AIDS in America — Forgotten but Not Gone, found that the prevalence of AIDS in some of these U.S. communities is actually worse than can be found in Africa.

… for black and Hispanic women, whose increased risk of HIV acquisition is attributable in greater part to their vulnerable social and economic situations and their sexual networks than to their own risky behaviors.

Socioeconomic disadvantage and instability of partnerships due to high rates of incarceration among men in their communities may lead women to engage in concurrent relationships or serial monogamy.

In addition, they may be unaware of their partners’ HIV status or may be involved in abusive or economically dependent relationships and thus be unable to negotiate safer sex with their partners.

Whereas at one time there was great hope that AIDS was being eradicated from U.S. society, this report tells us that it’s our nation’s jails that are the new breeding grounds for a preventable life-changing virus.

Because these jails house more minority inmates than any other racial group, AIDS is finding its way back into the minority communities when couples renew their relationships.

The study’s authors have several suggestions on how to stem this rising epidemic but they say it can’t start until one thing happens first:

First, there is an urgent need to acknowledge that HIV remains a major health threat in the United States.

And we would add that it is moving through communities that can least afford to be impacted by it.

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